THE last few minutes of a relatively uneventful evening consulting period were ticking away and four vets were conversing in the office, catching up on current cases, chewing the fat and comparing stethoscopes when it happened.

The empty waiting list on the computer screen in front of us flickered and announced, in bold blue type, the arrival of a client and her pet.

Languidly, a young vet, as yet untouched by the pressures of caesarean sections and cats with blocked bladders, reached across and casually scrolled the cursor down the screen till it hit on the animal’s details.

“I’ll get this,” he said. “He’s only in for a booster.”

Now normally I am a relaxed, calm, philosophical kind of guy.

You all know it takes a lot to get me going. Really, it does.

Generally, some incredible, unmitigated disaster of absolutely leviathan proportions has to occur for me to even get vaguely worked up. And it is almost unheard of for me to lose my temper.

Really, it is. Why, recent examples have been as extreme as someone being two minutes late for work, someone else putting the dishwasher on when it had already washed the dishes and was actually due to be emptied and someone else leaving a neatly tied, green poo bag at the base of the lamppost in our car-park, when it would have taken virtually no effort to hand it in at reception.

So, you get the idea of how genuinely laid back I am (and how it is always someone else‘s fault).

But this, ‘He’s only in for a booster’ comment really took the biscuit.

Slowly at first but then with increasing speed and ferocity, I started to feel my blood heat towards boiling point.

My heart rate surged and I knew I was going to have to fight hard to stop the red mist from descending.

“ONLY A BOOSTER?” I screamed.

It is never, ever, “Only a booster!”.

It is probably the pet’s only annual visit to the vet. Think about it.

If you have any simmering health problems you can articulate them to friends, family and ultimately your doctor.

Does your dog or cat take you aside and say, “Heh, I’ve had this nagging pain in my side/leg/jaw for a while. Can you get it seen to?”. No, he doesn’t.

When he’s getting his ‘only a booster‘ is the best chance for us to assess his health and wellbeing.

We can check his teeth, his skin, his heart, his lung sounds. We monitor his weight and advise accordingly. We palpate his abdomen, feeling bladder, kidneys, spleen, liver, prostate and bowel. His joints are examined for signs of arthritis.

His circulation is considered for evidence of insufficiency. His eyes are inspected for cataracts. His ears are lifted and looked at.

So much rests on this consultation that its benefit cannot be overstated. So often, a life has been saved because of early intervention.

It is never, ever, ‘only a booster'.